BUFFALO, N.Y. – One of the nation’s more
controversial issues — abortion — will be the topic of
a debate next week sponsored by the University at Buffalo
Department of Philosophy.
The debate, “Abortion: is it Ethical?” will be held
at 7 p.m. March 5 in 20 Knox Hall on the UB North Campus. It is
free and open to the public.
Taking part in the debate will be Stephen Kershnar, professor
and chair of the Department of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, and
Catherine Nolan, a UB PhD student in philosophy.
Kershnar, who will argue the pro-choice position, teaches
seminars and courses on such topics as abortion, autonomy, ethics,
current moral issues, and life and death. He is a recipient of a
SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the
Robert W. Kasling and William T. Hagan awards, both of which
recognize Fredonia faculty members for excellence in research.
He frequently speaks at the UB philosophy department’s
lunchtime philosophy series and attends the department’s
monthly reading groups on bioethics and free will and moral
Nolan, who will defend the pro-life position in the debate, also
is a member of those reading groups and has taught a section of the
philosophy department’s course on bioethics nearly every
semester for the past three years. Her doctoral dissertation is on
the metaphysics of death and its implications for organ
transplantation. She won the department’s award for the best
essay by a graduate student last year.
The debate on abortion is the second debate in what philosophy
chair David Hershenov hopes will be an annual series of debates
between UB and other Western New York philosophers on issues that
are covered in UB philosophy classes.
The goal of the Philosophy Debate Series, says Hershenov, is to
“highlight the importance of philosophy.”
“We think that the university community and public at
large will benefit from hearing professors and grad students bring
their philosophical training to bear upon a number of important and
controversial issues,” he says. Since most of the debates
will be on issues that are covered in UB philosophy classes,
“I hope an exciting and informative discussion will encourage
students to pursue these topics in our course offerings.”
Those courses cover such current controversies as abortion,
embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, physician-assisted
suicide, cloning and animal experimentation, among others.
“I also hope that when people see there are very good
arguments on both sides of a contentious issue like abortion, that
even if they don’t change their minds, the debate will become
more civil and thoughtful,” he says.
The first debate in the series, held last year, addressed the
issue of whether a person can survive death, Hershenov says. It
featured David Oderberg, professor of philosophy at the University
of Reading, UK, and Patrick Toner, assistant professor of
philosophy at Wake Forest University.
Next year’s debate will be on vegetarianism or the broader
issue of animal rights, and may team UB philosophers Randy Dipert
and Maureen Donnelly with colleagues from Niagara University, he
Hershenov says future topics under consideration include
affirmative action; the death penalty; same-sex marriage; moral
relativism; economic justice issues, such as who should bear the
costs of global warming; the existence of the soul; the rationality
of religious belief; has science shown that we lack free will, and
is it possible for a machine to be conscious.